Third period surge comes up short as Raiders fall to Wheat Kings

Nolan Ritchie #15 of the Brandon Wheat Kings flicks the puck wide of the net during the second period of WHL action against the Prince Albert Raiders at Westoba Place on Friday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Shots were at a premium, but goals were not as the Raiders managed four goals on only fifteen shots in a 5-4 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says he liked what he saw early in the contest, but the Raiders made some sloppy plays late in the first and early in the second.

“Early on I thought we had pretty decent control, we were moving pucks and making plays. The flow was going ok. Then we started making blind plays and turnovers and they started gaining momentum. We didn’t have the puck as much as we should to make plays. It seemed like we were panicking with the puck a little bit.”

The Raiders would start off on the right foot as Hayden Pakkala would tap a rebound past Wheat Kings goaltender Carson Bjarnason just 5:46 into the first period to give Prince Albert a 1-0 lead.

Brandon would respond at the 11:06 mark of the first period as Luke Shipley scored his first as a Wheat King after being acquired by the Victoria Royals late last month.

Zakhar Polshakov would extend the Brandon lead at the 17:08 mark of the first period as he would beat his fellow Belarusian countrymen Tikhon Chaika to give the Wheat Kings a 2-1 advantage after twenty minutes.

Gabe Ludwig made his debut for the Raiders after being acquired from Seattle in the Nolan Allan trade. Ludwig had been dealing with an upper body injury and made his return to the lineup Friday

Truitt says Ludwig will prove to be an impact player in Prince Albert.

“He’s quick, he is fast on his feet. He’s got good hands. We know he can score. He also works at both ends on the ice and he knows where he is on the ice. I’m glad he got his feet wet here. He is going to be fine, he will an exciting player because of his work ethic.”

Brandon would start the second period on the power play after Sloan Stanick was called for a cross checking minor penalty with just 29 seconds remaining in the first period.

Nate Danielson, the Wheat King captain just 0:12 in to give Brandon a 3-1 advantage.

Brandon would strike again just a minute later as Brett Ryland ripped home his 8th of the campaign to give the home side a 4-1 advantage.

Harrison Lodewyk would cut into the Wheat King lead with his third goal of the season from Carson Latimer at the 3:45 mark.

Brandon would add their third goal of the middle frame at the 6:42 mark as Rylen Roersma potted his 6th of the season to give the Wheat Kings a 5-2 lead.

A scary moment with only three seconds remaining in the second period as Gabe Ludwig would put a shoulder-on-shoulder check on Wheat Kings defenseman Charlie Elick who slid headfirst into the boards near the Brandon blue line. Elick went down in a heap and was quickly attended to by the training staff from both teams before being stretchered off the ice. Elick made a distinctive thumbs up motion to the crowd at Westoba Place as he was taken off the ice. Elick did not return to the game.

Shots favored the host Wheat Kings 20-9 after 40 minutes of play.

The Raiders, facing a three-goal deficit entering the third period, would come out with a vengeance.

Ryder Ritchie would strike just 0:43 in to the third period to cut into the Brandon lead to make it a 5-3 contest. Keaton Sorenson would pick up an assist on the play.

With goals coming from Pakkala, Lodewyk and Ritchie, the Raiders saw scoring from their depth options.

Truitt says the Raiders need that kind of production from their scoring depth to be a dangerous team.

“We’ve been asking for that for a while. You can’t have the Sorenson line carrying things all the time. We needed to ask everyone to help and contribute, we just can’t be a one line team. With some of our personnel, we’re not a one line team. We got to be more of a threat from top to bottom.”

Sorenson would pick up a goal of his own just under three minutes later as the 20-year-old scored his 13th of the year to bring the Wheat King down to just one at 5-4.

The Raiders could not find the game tying goal as Carson Bjarnason would stand tall the rest of the way for Brandon. Bjarnason would make 11 saves in the victory.

Truitt says the Raiders need to generate more opportunities to find success.

“It’s not good enough. I thought we missed the net an awful lot. We didn’t get shots through as much as we wanted to. We had some offensive zone time, but it seemed we gave up the puck or hit someone with it. You’re not going to win many games with 14-15 shots.”

Tikhon Chaika stopped 22 of 27 Wheat King shots.

With the loss, the Raiders fall to 10-14-2-0 on the season.

The Raiders will finish up a five-game road trip on Saturday against the Eastern Conference leading Winnipeg ICE. Pucks drops at 7pm.